Athlete, artist and statesman’
David Saul, the former premier, businessman and athlete with famously eclectic passions, died at his Devonshire Bay home early yesterday morning, aged 77.
Dr Saul, who served as United Bermuda Party premier from 1995 to 1997, was hailed by his contemporaries as a determined public servant who shepherded Bermuda through economic tribulations — and stood as premier during a chaotic time for the ruling party.
His personal accomplishments were myriad, from undersea adventures that made him instrumental in the founding of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, to his cycling and running feats.
However, Dr Saul suffered a stroke in March, followed recently by a second stroke which, according to a family statement, “cruelly set him back and prompted a move of typical conviction, determination and finality in his mind”.
His son Jonathan told The Royal Gazette: “It wasn’t that he lost the will to live at all.
“We could see him in there working hard to communicate, trying to walk, but unable to talk or see properly. It was more that he understood his situation and made a conscious effort to move forward with dignity and embrace his final days.”
Dr Saul’s family described him as an “athlete, artist and statesman” whose achievements and awards were too numerous to list.
“David led a life for the history books,” the statement said, adding that he was a proud and vocal ambassador for Bermuda and her people.
His friends and connections spanned the globe and, with his wife Christine, he spent years exploring wild places and enjoying tamer ones with an “enduring lust for life which was highlighted by its unique but excruciating end”.
The statement said: “After suffering his initial stroke in March which took his speech and some mobility, he knuckled down and applied himself with his legendary optimism and endurance to regain his independence and ability to communicate through some aggressive therapy.”
Christine, who met Dr Saul in England when she was just 16 and who wed him on August 31, 1963, told this newspaper her husband died “peacefully at home” early yesterday.
“It was important for him to be home and surrounded by his family,” she said. “David and I lived life to the full. All our adventures and all our life together has been absolutely brilliant. It was a life worth living.
“That was one of the reasons I married him — because I knew we could go adventuring together. He was my best friend and husband and father of my children.”
There are plans to place the former politician in a pre-made reef box so he can be buried at sea, as he wished.
But divers had yet to recover the casket as of yesterday morning. His son said the last few hurricanes meant it was not where it was supposed to be.
“We are working on it and we hope to have fine weather for the transfer,” said Jonathan. “Things are in flux.”
Dr Saul told this newspaper in June 2006 about his plan to create an artificial coral reef after his death.
“My great-grandchildren could swim down there to it and say ‘there’s great-grandpa down at that reef’,” he said.
Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said he had been “proud to call Dr Saul a friend” — remembering him for “his kindness, his generosity, his adventurous spirit and for embracing all that life had to offer”.
Saluting “a man of tremendous energy and, in every pursuit, he was determined to do things well”, Opposition leader David Burt extended condolences on behalf of the Progressive Labour Party.
Sir John Swan, the former premier, recalled him as “unique — he was an iconic individual”, while Dame Pamela Gordon, who succeeded him as premier, called him “a great ambassador for Bermuda on all the boards and committees that he served up until his death”.
Leo Mills, the Assistant Cabinet Secretary during Dr Saul’s tenure, recalled Dr Saul’s lively sense of humour and diligence with facts and figures.
“He was always well prepared, whether going up to the House of Assembly or taking Cabinet meetings. He was also very much the life of the party, keen to engage anyone in conversation. He was a renaissance man in that regard.”
David John Saul was born at home on Keith Hall Road in Bermuda on November 27, 1939.
As well as his wife and son, he leaves behind a daughter, Robin, and grandsons Bracton, 18; Targun, 16; Keane, 7, and six-year-old Dashiell.